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The “F” word

The Telegraph reports that Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the man in charge of drafting Europe’s first constitution, admitted yesterday that the much-trumpeted removal of the word “federal” from the text changed nothing and was merely a ruse to shield the British government from criticism. The former French president said the cosmetic change that did not affect the shape or character of the future EU or lessen the transfer of real power to Brussels.

I knew the word federal was ill-perceived by the British and a few others. I thought that it wasn’t worth creating a negative commotion, which could prevent them supporting something that otherwise they would have supported. So I rewrote my text, replacing intentionally the word federal with the word communautaire, which means exactly the same thing.

So much for the British government’s insistence that the EU constitution will not lead to a European superstate. Downing Street has hailed the removal of the word federal as its biggest triumph in the 18-month long drafting process. Giscard d’Estaing also moaned:

It’s a campaign by people who want to destroy Europe, which is something that’s very negative and counter-productive. But I was not convinced they were really influencing the British people.

The ‘patrician’ Frenchman is right about our desire to destroy Europe or at least the bit that insists on dragging Britain into it. Such efforts do appear to be if not counter-productive, certainly rather ineffective so far. However, if we could make him right about the influence on the British people…

22 comments to The “F” word

  • Guy Herbert

    I’m interested that it’s so easy to get away with conflating Europe (big continent, full of all sorts of different interesting people and things) with the European Movement Project (the long term plan to bring all the former under one government, seemingly by boring the inhabitants into submission). When Giscard says “Europe” he means the latter, but wraps himself in the connotations of the former.

    As one of the would be wreckers of the Project, I don’t want to destroy Europe at all. I want to stop “Europe” from destroying Europe.

  • I agree with Guy… by opposing the EU, we are not trying to destroy Europe, we are trying to save it!

  • mad dog barker

    Now there is a thought… Perry trying to save Europe. Gulp!

    If you save 50 you can trade in for a real democracy, etc. :0)

  • Liberty Belle

    Perry and Guy – I don’t know that it’s worth saving. They like what they’ve got. They are comfortable with the way the EU’s going. Yes, they’ve been sold a bill of goods and told that they “need” the EU, but if they’ve been too bovine to think for themselves, or to resist, that is their problem. Not ours. I am only interested in saving British sovereignty. I couldn’t be less interested in the slow suicide of the rest of them.

    What people on this site keep on forgetting, when expressing puzzlement that the continent of Europe seems to be skipping ahead to the cliff edge quite happily is, there is no tradition of democracy in most of Europe. None. Democracy was imposed on most of them by the US and Britain after WWII. They only lived with it for 25 years or so before they started fidgeting around finding ways to make themselves back into serfs with the founding of the EEC. Face it, folks. Democracy never took root. They don’t want it. They want the EU.

  • At least the UK press were under no illusions about the f-word, the Telegraph was predicting its removal as a political fudge for Blair almost as soon as the constitution was published…

  • Kodiak


    ” (…) there is no tradition of democracy in most of Europe”

    You surely must be referring to France & Germany.

  • This Guy Fawkes = Ted Heath thing that Mark Holland links to above must be the source of the rumour I heard that some people were going to be chucking metric rulers and suchlike on bonfires this November…..

    I don’t want to get Kodiak all excited, but France had a military coup since the Second World War (when de Gaulle took power to forestall fears that the Second Parachute Regiment were going to take over Paris), Germany suspended its own relatively young democracy just before the Second World War. I don’t think democracy is the last word though – I prefer to contrast the rather small number of executions after the end of the English Civil War with the couple of thousand in Paris after the French Revolution over a century later which gave us the modern word ‘Terrorism’.

  • T. Hartin

    The French record as a democratic nation is hardly one to boast of, at least relative to the UK and the USA. Democracy in both the UK and US, even with a limited franchise, predates that in France, and the French have been unable to maintain democratic governments or transitions of power for any length of time. I don’t know French history well enough to give an exact count, but it seems that the French have lapsed into non-democratic government several times since 1789.

    I don’t know German history well enough to say, but I doubt that any kind of democratic government in Germany predates the middle of the 19th century, with at least one well-known lapse back into dictatorship in the mid-20th century.

    Spanish democracy disappeared entirely for 40 years during the Franco regime. Eastern European democracy likewise disappeared for 40 years under the Soviet boot. I suppose the Dutch have done pretty well, maybe even as well as the Brits.

    So, yeah, I would say that the democratic tradition in Europe is relatively weak compared to that of the Anglosphere.

  • Chris Josephson

    One of the reasons I wanted an EU to succeed was to help give Europe some stability. I figured if they had vibrant markets with low unemployment, people would be too busy working to engage in overthrowing/replacing their governments.

    We’ve had 2 world wars because of the Europeans.
    Also, the wonder that is Communism!!

    I wanted them to do something else besides sit around and dream up new Utopias to shove down peoples’ throats.

    No matter how un-PC it is to say, Britain/UK is not part of Europe and never will be. It’s a forced fit, at best. The UK has been one of the most stable countries in that part of the world for quite some time.

    Most Europeans seem to like (or need) having a bunch of ‘higher ups’ taking care of things for them. They stage periodic marches which give the illusion of ‘people power’ and they seem satisfied with that.

    Not very many of the European countries has a system of government that’s 100 years old. Those that do, are smaller countries. They haven’t learned how to make government work so that it will last.

    Because so many of the countries involved in drafting all the rules and regulations don’t have a history of government continuity, they believe it’s the rules and regulations that will keep them stable.

    They don’t understand that a country (or collection of countries) is more than just rules and regulations of its government. It’s the attitude of its citizens towards the country. The love of liberty, if you will.

    One of the reasons the UK has not played ‘musical chair government’ like some European countries is in large part due to the attitudes and values of the British people. These are attitudes and values the Europeans don’t all share.

    The sooner the UK gets out of the mess that is the EU, the better. The EU will strangle itself in its own rules and regulations.

  • Liberty Belle

    Oh T Hartin! – you forgot to mention Plucky Little Belgium, one of the triumverate of the Axis of Weasels. I don’t believe the Belges have ever torn themselves away from the table long enough to man the ramparts in defence of democracy.

  • Kodiak


    What you said about democracy in the US & the UK is amusing.

    I don’t have the erudite artillery that would be relevant in an Anglo-Saxon background, but I can float that for you:

    1/ US
    Your bla-bla about US being the beacon of human rights stops where US under-citizens (Blacks overtly until the 60s & hypocritically since then, poor people) & US non-citizens (spoliated Amerindians) are standing.

    2/ UK
    Same principle with different instances >>> democracy in the UK at the expense of the Blacks, the Indians etc (slavery, colonialism).
    Of course same stuff for the French.

    Really, setting up yourselves as the judge for democratic quality is funny.

    Ask in any country. Oh sorry, I forgot >>> they’re all undemocratic.

  • steph

    France Government since the coronation of Louis XVI

    Absolute Monarchy (Louis XVI)
    Constitutional Monarchy (Louis XVI)
    Louis gets the chop
    Republic (I)
    Directory ???
    Empire (Napoleon)
    1815 Absolute Monarchy (restoration Louis XVII ? and Charles XIX or XX ?)
    1830? Constitutional Monarchy (Louis Philippe)
    1848 Republic (II)
    Empire (Napoleon III)
    1871 Republic (III)
    1945 or 1946 Republic (IV)
    195-??? Republic (V)

    The French can’t claim that much government stability over the last 225 years to put it mildly. Especially when you consider that the U.S. has had the same constitution since 1787 and the state of Mass. for longer than that. (Mass. Constitution written by John Adams is the oldest written constitution still in effect)

  • David Brown


    Actually the lack of human rights for certian classes of citizen, while the greatest blotch upon my nations history, does not belie a democratic tradition.
    Far far back into American history, even during the colonial period, there is a significant portion of the population that engaged in democractic practices. Over the years these groups developed a democratic tradition by definition. A tradition being something that is ingrained in the culture due to generation of doing it. As the franchise was expanded (to all whites by the 1820’s, slowly over time to women (the 19th amendment mandated that women be given the right to vote. however, prior to that many states enacted their own legislation giving women the right to vote there), and theoretically to all races after the civil war, though in actuality not until the 20th century; as I was saying as the franchise was expanded, these groups were introduced to democracy through the preexisting habits and traditions of the earilier more limited franchise.
    Democracy is thus far more a part of the culture of america, and I suppose the UK, than it is a part of the culture of other newer democracies in Europe. (Though I would say some of the posters on this site are a tad chauvinistic when it comes to the their democratic traditions versus those of the continent.)

    as for your human rights comments themselves, 1) the civil rights situation in america has drastically changed since the 1960’s. At my high school, which was mainly Asian, Indian (subcontinent) and Jewish, (I belonged really to neither group, being Christian), the biggest racists are definitely the Asians, unquestionably. As for Native Americans (please don’t call them Amerindians, its somewhat insulting and they prefer to be called by their tribes anyway), you need to make a case for current deprival of human rights, not those of many years ago). The same goes for your statement on the poor in America, the problems of which vary regionally to some degree (urban/rural lines – in some parts of kentucky, for example, the parents try to keep the kids poor and uneducated to keep them from moving away to where there are jobs and such). So be specific if you’re going to make such a broad statement.

    – David Brown

  • Phil Bradley

    The thing that differentiates the Anglosphere from most of continental Europe is stable evolving institutions. The last violent constitutional change was the American revolutionary war.

    I happen to think that a society is little more than the sum of its institutions. What I see in the EU is a strong tendecy to ‘experiment’ with institutions. This may look like a great idea in places with weak institutions like Paris or Athens, but in the UK it looks reckless and unecessary.

    The question the EU proponents have to answer, is ‘Why should the UK replace its stable and proven institutions, with the essentially unproven institutions of the EU?’ The EU federal project may fix what is broken in parts of Europe, but in the UK these things are not broken (ignoring the damage the EU has done to date).

  • T. Hartin

    Kodiak –

    I never said anything about being a beacon of human rights (although America is that, as well). I will put the American record on human rights up against that of any nation, especially any of the former colonizers of the Continent.

    I will leave you with these thoughts on the histories of the Continent v. the Anglosphere on slavery. The British led the way on abolishing slavery, and applied their naval might to destroying the slave trade in the early 19th century. The Americans went to war to eliminate slavery in their nation (admittedly, they also went to war to defend it), and the lives of half a million Americans were sacrificed to ensure its eradication. What the French did to end the slave trade or slavery in general, I am not sure. Perhaps you can inform us.

    In any event, I am more concerned with the present and the future than the past. I don’t see federation in Europe as a force for freedom and civil rights; rather, I see in it much potential for the contrary.

  • T. Hartin

    steph – your listing of French regimes leaves out the Vichy regime of 1940-45. I doubt it could be counted as a democratic period in French history.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Tuesday July 8, 2003: (The Guardian)

    …A month ago we discovered that our home secretary had secretly concluded an extradition treaty with the US that permits the superpower to extract British nationals without presenting evidence before a court. Britain acquires no such rights in the US….

    Two weeks ago, the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, told the Royal United Services Institute that he intends to restructure the British armed forces. As “it is highly unlikely that the United Kingdom would be engaged in large-scale combat operations without the United States”, the armed forces must now be “structured and equipped” to meet the demands of the wars fought by our ally. Our military, in other words, will become functionally subordinate to that of another nation. …

    …So why is it deemed by the right to be patriotic both to oppose the EU and to appease the US? Why has the old reactionary motto “my country, right or wrong” been so smoothly replaced with another one: “their country, right or wrong”? Why does the British right now believe it has a God-given duty to defend someone else’s empire? …

  • Chris Josephson

    Kodiak said :

    “1/ US
    Your bla-bla about US being the beacon of human rights stops where US under-citizens (Blacks overtly until the 60s & hypocritically since then, poor people) & US non-citizens (spoliated Amerindians) are standing.
    2/ UK
    Same principle with different instances >>> democracy in the UK at the expense of the Blacks, the Indians etc (slavery, colonialism).
    Of course same stuff for the French.
    Really, setting up yourselves as the judge for democratic quality is funny.”

    My response:

    Democratic ideals, principles and institutions do *NOT* usher in Nirvana or Utopia. The principles and ideals will be carried out by flawed human beings, not perfect robots.

    We’ve had problems, but we have addressed them and are addressing others. We’ll always have problems that need to be addressed.

    Until someone invents the perfect human being, we’ll screw up again somehow. If you’re looking for the perfect country or the perfect system of government, you won’t find it on planet Earth. There will never be a Nirvana or Utopia here. Never *the perfect* country or government.

    You will find people trying their best to make their ideas and principles work. Sometimes they will succeed and sometimes they’ll fail. As long as they acknowledge mistakes and try to correct them, that’s all you can ask.

    There are some systems of government that are more prone to allowing corruption than others. Also, some governmental systems give more freedom and liberty to their citizens than others.

    I guess what I’m saying is that while we may never have the ‘perfect’ system, some are better than others. All governmental systems are not equal.

    Phil said:

    “The thing that differentiates the Anglosphere from most of continental Europe is stable evolving institutions.

    What I see in the EU is a strong tendecy to ‘experiment’ with institutions. This may look like a great idea in places with weak institutions like Paris or Athens, but in the UK it looks reckless and unecessary..”

    My response:


    The reason the Europeans ‘experiment’ is because they haven’t, yet, found anything that suits them for very long. They don’t have a very long history with any one government. Isn’t France on its 5th Republic (just since her revolution)?

    Because they haven’t had much luck in creating stable governments themselves, but have managed to survive (more or less) the various ones they did try, they may be *more willing* to experiment. Perhaps they think, “If this doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”?

    The lack of long-term stable governments in the main European countries explains why they want to control every aspect of people’s lives.

    The control gives them a sense of security that the EU *will* work. If you aren’t from a country that has a history of stable goverments and stable transitions of power, you feel the need for control because it provides a feeling of security. As long as they have controls in place, the system won’t unravel on them (so they think).

    A person generally likes to have tight control on situations and people he/she is unfamiliar with. Generally, people loosen controls on people and situations they are familiar with and trust.

    Those countries that have had stable governments and stable transitions of power for centuries, look upon what the Europeans are trying to do in shock and horror.

    If I lived in the UK, I wouldn’t want to give up my country’s way of doing things and take part in the EU experiment. Going from something that has worked for centuries to something that hasn’t been tested yet would bother me. (Especially since the main architects don’t have a history of stable governments in their countries.)

  • Don Eyres

    T. Hartin,
    To answer your question RE “What did France do about ending slavery?”-
    – Napoleon restored it in the French Caribbean possessions.
    – While the US was engaged in a civil war to end slavery, France tried to take advantage of US preoccupation to colonize Mexico.

    Liberty Belle,
    The soggy Belgian Waffle is a fairly new phenominon. The Belgians put up a good fight in WWI, then reoccupied part of Germany when that country refused to abide by terms of the Armistice it signed. (Sound familiar?) Unfortunately, the Belgians and French were not supported by the Brits and US, and after a few years of bad publicity, gave up and walked away in the late 20s. Ironic, perhaps?

  • Liberty Belle

    Don Eyres – thank you. I didn’t know that.

  • Kodiak


    1783 Absolute Monarchy (Louis XVI) + USA sovereignity acknowledgement

    1788 Absolute Monarchy (Louis XVI) + Parliaments’ rebellion + convocation of Etats Généraux

    1789 Constitutional Monarchy (Louis XVI) + Etats Généraux’s hearings + Third State’s self-proclaming as National Assembly + privileges abolished + Declaration of Human & Citizen’s Rights

    1791 Constitutional Monarchy (Louis XVI) + Constitution adpoted with King’s allegiance

    1792 Monarchy abolished + Ist Republic

    1793 Ist republic + former King (Louis XVI) executed + Terror (Robespierre)

    1794 Thermidorians ending Terror & establishing democracy for an élite

    1795 Directoire (five Directors + two Assemblies + executive & legislative powers separated)

    1799 Consulate (Bonaparte = First Consul + two other ones)

    1804 Ist Empire (Napoléon Ist)

    1814 Monarchy Restoration (Louis XVIII + Charles X)

    1830 Monarchy of July (King of the French: Louis-Philippe replacing King of France: Charles X)

    1848 IInd Republic

    1852 IInd Empire (Napoléon III)

    1870 IIIrd Republic

    1940 Vichy State (Pétain + Laval) + De Gaulle (FFL = Free French Forces) proclaims Vichy State illegal (Brazzaville)

    1941 CNF created in London (French National Committee)

    1944 Provisional Government (De Gaulle)

    1947 IVth Republic

    1958 Vth Republic (still in vigour with current controversial Chirac as President)

    You see, even if it’s even worse than what you wrote, it’s apparently getting somewhat more stable.